Free movement for truck drivers’ social rights

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV.COM Ltd.

Promoted content

697063585 [shutterstock_]

Ever since the creation of the Single Market, Spanish fruits and vegetables sold in all European supermarkets and German kitchen appliances in hardware stores across Europe have become trivial. The reason being, that every day, thousands of tons of goods are transported by road freight across the European Union.

A sector characterised by abuse and wage dumping.

For the hundreds of thousands of women and men, who make up Europe’s truck fleet, road haulage is a profession characterised by abuse, wage dumping, chronic illnesses and endless weeks in isolation away from family, friends and home.

International road haulage is not only one of the most competitive sectors, but it is also a heavily labour-intensive sector. Therefore, many shortsighted European haulier companies view labour costs as the key factor to stay competitive and are now at full throttle in ‘the race to the bottom’.

No deregulation of working hours

As negotiations on the Mobility Package have now moved into their final stage, the newly elected European Parliament together with the European capitals and the European Commission will have to ensure a number of key elements to stop the free fall in truck drivers’ working conditions.

For starters, the European Parliament should not accept the deregulation of driving and rest times for trucks drivers.

Today’s rules on driving and rest time grant truck drivers three days of rest during two weeks of driving, which is not a lot.

However, the Commission and the European governments are now proposing to further deregulate this right by extending the current reference period for calculating driving and rest time from two to four weeks. This will legally allow bosses to grant their drivers only two days of rest during three weeks of driving and to aggregate all of the remaining weekly rest time in the fourth week of this period.

Imagine how your life would be if all your weekends, except one, werecombined and took place during the last week of the month. Not very appealing, is it?

Equal pay for equal work    

Lawmakers must ensuretruck drivers’ right to equal pay for equal work.

Although nowadays posting rules apply to international transport by road from Day 1, the lack of cross-border enforcement capacity currently allows a company established in Hungary (e.g. established as a letterbox company) to employ truck drivers to carry out international freight between Belgium and Germany remunerating them according to Hungarian wages.

The basic gross salary of a Hungarian employed truck driver is around EUR 550 per month. In comparison, the basic gross salary of a Belgian employed truck driver is around EUR 2.600 per month,almost the same as in the western part of Germany.On top of that the hauler company must pay allowances and around EUR 1.300 in social security contributions.

Companies based in Western Europe flagging out their business to Central and Eastern Europe can thus exploit the significant wage gap between the Member States, which leads to social dumping.

For the Hungarian employed truck driver, social dumping is exploitation in the form of underpayment, which means that Eastern European workers will remain Europe’s low-cost workforce. For the Belgian and German drivers, social dumping means downward pressure on working conditions.For all three drivers, thesocial dumping means that any attempt of achieving upward social convergence and advancing the overall conditions of workers is utterly obstructed.

Therefore, the European Parliament and the European governments must ensure the widest possible application of the general Posting of Workers Directive to Europe’s truck drivers. While the directive presents a fundamental rights challenge, particularly in the construction sector in regard to the right to take collective action, including the right to strike, a sectoral directive in the transport sector could help advance posted truck drivers’ right to equal pay for equal work. Moreover, in a sector where paper-based documents are constantly forged to mislead enforcers, we need to move once and for all into the new era of smart enforcement: electronic documents, accessible in real time at road and company checks will mean shorter but more effective controls. And that is what the European Parliament wants.

As the trilogue negotiations between the European Parliament, the Member States and the European Commission are now taking off, lawmakers must show that Europe can be more than just companies’ freedom to move goods and services across the Union in the name of private profit. Free movement is also free movement for workers’ rights to decent working time arrangements and equal pay for equal work.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Subscribe

Want to know what's going on in the EU Capitals daily? Subscribe now to our new 9am newsletter.